The news about the novel coronavirus in China grows more urgent daily. The number of related deaths is now greater than 1,300, while tens of thousands of people have been infected — most of them in China.
What is coronavirus?
Coronaviruses (CoV) are a large family of viruses that cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV).
A novel coronavirus (nCoV) is a new strain that has not been previously identified in humans.
Coronaviruses are zoonotic, meaning they are transmitted between animals and people. Detailed investigations found that SARS-CoV was transmitted from civet cats to humans and MERS-CoV from dromedary camels to humans. Several known coronaviruses are circulating in animals that have not yet infected humans.
Human CoV types
Coronaviruses are named for the crown-like spikes on their surface. There are four main sub-groupings of coronaviruses, known as alpha, beta, gamma, and delta.
Human coronaviruses were first identified in the mid-1960s. The seven coronaviruses that can infect people are:
1. 229E (alpha CoV)
2. NL63 (alpha CoV)
3. OC43 (beta CoV)
4. HKU1 (beta CoV)
5. MERS-CoV (the beta coronavirus that causes Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, or MERS)
5. SARS-CoV (the beta coronavirus that causes severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS)
6. 2019 Novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV)
People around the world commonly get infected with human coronaviruses 229E, NL63, OC43, and HKU1.
Sometimes coronaviruses that infect animals can evolve and make people sick and become a new human coronavirus. Three recent examples of this are 2019-nCoV, SARS-CoV, and MERS-CoV.
2019 Novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV)
On January 9, 2020, the World Health Organization reported that a novel (new) coronavirus was identified by Chinese authorities. The virus is associated with an outbreak of pneumonia in Wuhan City, Hubei Province, China.
Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus (SARS-CoV) was first recognized in China in November 2002.
It caused a worldwide outbreak in 2002-2003 with 8,098 probable cases including 774 deaths. Since 2004, there have not been any known cases of SARS-CoV infection reported anywhere in the world.
>Middle East Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) was first reported in Saudi Arabia in 2012.
It has since caused illness in people from dozens of other countries. All cases to date have been linked to countries in or near the Arabian Peninsula. CDC continues to closely monitor MERS globally and work with partners to better understand the risks of this virus, including the source, how it spreads, and how infections might be prevented.